27492. (Homer) The Odyssey [tr. Stephen Mitchell]

Ulysse et Télémaque massacrent les prétendants de Pénélope. (1812) Thomas Degeorge

Ulysse et Télé­maque mas­sacrent les pré­ten­dants de Péné­lope (1812) by Thomas Degeorge

Before the fatal attrac­tion of Sci­ence Fic­tion, my early child­hood read­ing was dom­i­nated by dinosaurs, jun­gles, vol­ca­noes and tales of explor­ers and sci­en­tists. But there was also a niche set aside for ancient myth, par­tic­u­larly Greek myths. I read a crum­bling old copy of Charles Kingsley’s The Heroes: Perseus, Jason, The­seus, and Jason in par­tic­u­lar appealed to me, a taste firmly cemented by repeated view­ings of Harry Harrihausen’s mag­i­cal stop-motion effects in the film Jason and the Arg­onauts. I also pos­sessed (I’m not sure how) a lit­tle blue book, some­thing pro­ferred as “edu­ca­tional” from a Cana­dian pub­lisher, enti­tled Clas­si­cal Mythol­ogy in Song and Story: Part Two, Epic Heroes. It was choc full of line draw­ings from some uncred­ited artist. These were rea­son­ably good, and some were quite sexy. But most delight­ful of all, the two end­pa­pers were maps, show­ing in a ser­pen­tine dot­ted line the jour­ney — it actu­ally said “wan­der­ings” in the map ― of Odysseus. The land of the lotus-eaters was Tunisia. Scylla and Charib­dis stood fero­ciously on either side of the straight sep­a­rat­ing Sicily from Cal­abria. No doubt this explains the pre­pon­der­ance of Ital­ian immi­grants to Canada from those two provinces. I can’t express how much maps meant to me at that age. Maps were my cat­nip. Put a map on the end-papers of any­thing, and I would read it.

The retellings of the myths in these two books were in old-fashioned styles, a mix­ture of late 19th cen­tury British and 1930’s Cana­dian prose. I rated the var­i­ous heroes dif­fer­ently. Her­cules, a mere mus­cle­man with obvi­ously lim­ited intel­li­gence, struck me as more of a “hero” for the bul­lies that waited to pounce on me on the way to school. The pompous char­ac­ters of the Iliad did not impress me at all, and the Tro­jan War didn’t seem very inter­est­ing. For all that I liked Jason, he was too depen­dent on help from var­i­ous gods, ora­cles, and crew­men. The Arg­onau­tica is a pretty good story, but Jason him­self is basi­cally just a generic teen adven­ture hero. It’s with the retelling of the Odyssey that the book hit gold. Odysseus was no pink-cheeked ado­les­cent, cer­tainly no wimp, and obvi­ously had a brain… though not nec­es­sar­ily the best judge­ment. The adven­tures were not a mere parade of mon­sters. The Cyclops was not just a dan­ger­ous ani­mal, but a par­tic­u­larly grue­some oppo­nent that Odysseus could con­verse with and out­wit. There were sub­tler per­ils, mostly vari­ants of the femme fatale, and the temp­ta­tions of drug-induced ecstasy and time­less­ness. Odysseus even goes to Hell ― the mor­bid cold and misty Hell of the Greeks, not the silly bar­be­cued Chris­t­ian Hell.

Even­tu­ally, I read the actual epic, first in the Richard Lat­ti­more trans­la­tion, then later in the Pen­guin Clas­sics ver­sion trans­lated by E. V. Rieu. But it wasn’t quite the same. As a teenager and an adult, read­ing could not have the same sense of spon­ta­neous rev­e­la­tion that it had for a small child. The Odyssey ceased to be a “story” and became “lit­er­a­ture,” con­sumed with the same pedan­tic indus­try that I read Chaucer, Hem­ing­way or Tobias Smol­lett. That is to say, not with­out appre­ci­a­tion and plea­sure, but not with the wide-eyed gusto of a small child unwrap­ping a Crispy Crunch bar.

Clas­sics are sel­dom reread, even by omniv­o­rous read­ers. Most of the book­ish peo­ple I know have read an assort­ment of clas­sics in their high school or col­lege years, then filed them away in mem­ory, feel­ing lit­tle urge to look at them again with the per­spec­tive of age. There are far too many newer things com­pet­ing for atten­tion. Grad­u­ally, such clas­sics dim into vague impres­sions, sta­tic snap­shots of par­tic­u­lar scenes, or trun­cated plot sum­maries. Moby Dick the whale is God. Anna Karen­ina throws her­self under a train. Gar­gan­tua wipes his ass with a duck.

But I’m a chronic rereader. Even some appar­ently sim­ple books never seem to come out the same on suc­ces­sive read­ings. I’ve read Edgar Pangborn’s A Mir­ror For Observers eight times. I’m look­ing for­ward to the ninth. I would no more be fin­ished with it than I would cease lis­ten­ing to “St. James Infir­mary Blues” because I’ve already heard it. So I’ve just reread The Odyssey, after many years, this time in the 2013 trans­la­tion by Stephen Mitchell, whose prodi­gious indus­try has already pro­duced an Iliad, a Gil­gamesh, and a Bha­gavad Gita. Any­one tak­ing on the task of trans­lat­ing an ancient work is faced with a basic choice at the very start: whether to use “ele­vated” lan­guage or “col­lo­quial” lan­guage, or some com­pro­mise between the two. Mitchell chose the col­lo­quial approach with­out com­pro­mise, notice­ably more than either Lat­ti­more or Rieu. I can under­stand this, because an “ele­vated” style does not come eas­ily either to an Eng­lish lan­guage reader or to an Eng­lish lan­guage writer. In soci­eties where caste and class are inte­gral to every aspect of life the use of a spe­cial “high” lan­guage in poetry or prose comes nat­u­rally enough ― in some lan­guages there is an entirely dif­fer­ent sys­tem of gram­mar for aris­to­cratic or poetic speech. But most English-speaking soci­eties do not hold class and caste as sacred ideals, and in Eng­lish such a lin­guis­tic dis­tinc­tion con­veys only insin­cer­ity. As a triv­ial, but illus­tra­tive exam­ple, con­sider record­ings of pop­u­lar songs by opera stars. Oper­atic singers are taught a very spe­cific for­mula of enun­ci­a­tion, based on the Ital­ian val­ues of vow­els and con­so­nants, designed to make opera lyrics clearer and show off the exact­ing vocal dis­ci­pline of oper­atic singing. We are not expected to fall into a sus­pen­sion of dis­be­lief in which we are truly expe­ri­enc­ing the pow­er­house lungs of the diva as a frail con­sump­tive waif com­mit­ting sui­cide. Opera singers can’t aban­don this dis­ci­pline and enun­ci­ate like a Cana­dian accoun­tant, a sheep rancher in the Aus­tralian out­back, or a teenager in Van Nuys, Cal­i­for­nia. So no mat­ter how much verve or tech­ni­cal skill they put into a pop­u­lar song, it is bound to give an impres­sion of arti­fi­cial­ity and false emo­tion. The pop­u­lar singer’s enun­ci­a­tion matches that of col­lo­quial lan­guage, and thus sounds more sin­cere. How­ever, an Ital­ian oper­atic aria does not sound the least bit insin­cere to an Ital­ian. The same dis­ci­plined enun­ci­a­tion can be applied to an Ital­ian folk­song or pop song, and Pavarotti could switch from Verdi’s De’ miei bol­lenti spir­iti” to the folksy Neapoli­tan Fen­esta vas­cia” with­out bat­ting an eye. The clos­est that one usu­ally comes to see­ing the use of the “ele­vated” lan­guage con­ven­tion in Eng­lish is in 1950’s his­tor­i­cal movies set in ancient Rome, where the Sen­a­tors all speak in British Shake­spear­ian Stage accents, the cen­tu­ri­ons are Amer­i­cans, and the slaves are Cock­neys or come from Brook­lyn. This is not a viable tem­plate for trans­lat­ing the Odyssey if one expects it to be read with­out laughing.

One thing I noticed this time around is that the Odyssey is noth­ing like a “folk epic”. I’ve read or heard quite a few exam­ples of gen­uine folk epics, and this work doesn’t even remotely resem­ble them. It gives every indi­ca­tion of being the con­scious prod­uct of a sin­gle author who con­ceived of it as a uni­fied work, in short of being “lit­er­a­ture”, even if it was com­posed and per­formed orally. That is not to say that it doesn’t con­tain folk­loric ele­ments. I think what Homer (or whomever) was doing was tak­ing a body of exist­ing folk song, itself based on an estab­lished mythol­ogy, and embed­ding it into a coher­ent nar­ra­tive, which is in turn framed by an over­ar­ch­ing meta-narrative. There is noth­ing impromptu about any of this con­struc­tion. Every­where in it one sees the fin­ger­prints of a writer, some­one care­fully select­ing ele­ments, view­ing them from mul­ti­ple angles, cal­cu­lat­ing their tim­ing and effect, and using them as instru­ments of emo­tional manip­u­la­tion. The “hero” of the con­structed work is not Odysseus, but young Telemachus, who occu­pies a large part of the total nar­ra­tive, and whose trans­for­ma­tion from inef­fec­tual youth to effec­tive adult is deter­mined at first by the absence of his father, then by his uncov­er­ing indi­rect evi­dence of his father’s adven­tures from tes­ti­mony, then finally by Odysseus’ return­ing and re-establishing his her­itage. As a reflec­tion of this process, Telemachus is guided by Athena in the form of the vis­i­tor Men­tor. Odysseus’ fan­tas­tic adven­tures are embed­ded in this meta-frame in frag­men­tary form. Every­where in the nar­ra­tive it is the psy­cho­log­i­cal, not the phys­i­cal events that are empha­sized. No mat­ter how many mon­sters appear, most of the nar­ra­tive is like a real­is­tic novel:

While they were speak­ing Eurýnome and the nurse were mak­ing the bed by torch­light, spread­ing upon it soft sheets and blan­kets. And when they had fin­ished their work, soft sheets and blan­kets. And when they had fin­ished their work, Eurycléa went back to her room for the night, and Eurýnome, hold­ing a torch, accom­pa­nies them to the bed­room and left them there. And in great joy the two of them lay at last in each other’s arms. Telemachus and the cowherd and swine­herd stopped danc­ing, and told the women to stop as well and dis­missed them, and then they went to sleep in the shad­owy hall. When Pene­lope and Odysseus had taken their plea­sure in the joys of love, they told each other their sto­ries. She told him of every­thing she had endured in the palace with the despi­ca­ble crowd of suit­ors encamped there, using her as an excuse to slaugh­ter so many cat­tle and sheep and to drink so much of their wine. And Odysseus told her of his great exploits in war, the suf­fer­ing he had inflicted and what he had suf­fered on his way home, and she lis­tened to him, enchanted, and she did not close her eyes until he had finished.

There are as many female char­ac­ters in the Odyssey as there are male, and the nar­ra­tive either puts them in fore­front, has them behav­ing proac­tively, or attempts to describe their points of view. It is Helen, not Menelaus, who tells Telemachus and the assem­bled ban­queters the tale of Odysseus’ fight­ing at Troy. Folk epics sim­ply don’t do these things, and they are not the prod­uct of the sim­ple accre­tion of folk tales or folk songs into a col­lec­tive tra­di­tional epic. This is a delib­er­ate, uni­fied work of lit­er­a­ture. Yes, there is a body of mythol­ogy and song already known to the audi­ence, just as Her­mann Melville expected his read­ers to already know the bible sto­ries that make Moby Dick com­pre­hen­si­ble, but they are made into some­thing which the audi­ence under­stands exists for and of itself. In fact, when­ever Homer is about to use a pre-existing seg­ment of nar­ra­tive, he telegraphs this by his phras­ing and the way he leads into it. These ele­ments are like film-clips. We are invari­ably told how they are known, and why we are being told them — some­thing which folk epics rarely, if ever, do. The result is no more a folk epic or a col­lec­tive endeav­our than is Milton’s Par­adise Lost.

Another thing I noticed is the promi­nent role that drugs play in the nar­ra­tive. There are more than the Lotus Eaters and the potions of Circe:

And as they were wash­ing, Helen had an idea. Into the wine that they were to drink, she slipped a drug that dis­solved all grief and anger and ban­ished remem­brance of every sor­row. Who­ever drank this, once it was mixed in, would not be able to feel a moment of sad­ness that day, or to shed one tear ― not even if both their mother and father died or if some­one came and stabbed his son or brother in front of his eyes and he looked on as it hap­pened. It was one of the potent drugs that the daugh­ter of Zeus had been given by Poly­dámna, the wife of Thon, a woman of Egypt, the land where the rich earth pro­duces the great­est sup­ply of drugs, of which many are ben­e­fi­cial, and many are poisonous.

A Roman mosaic portraying the Odyssey. Its stories were known to everyone --- literally thousands of murals, mosaics an painted pottery portraying it have survived, doubtless a tiny fraction of those that once existed.

A Roman mosaic por­tray­ing the Odyssey. Its story was known to every­one — lit­er­ally thou­sands of murals, mosaics and painted pot­tery ves­sels por­tray­ing it have sur­vived, a tiny frac­tion of those that once existed.

It’s not clear how much of the Odyssey can con­nect with a mod­ern reader. The motives, val­ues and behav­iours are, after all, those of the ancient world, and these over­lap, but are not con­gru­ent with those of today. The Renais­sance and espe­cially the Enlight­en­ment read­ing audi­ences were much more inter­ested in Telemachus’ role than in Odysseus’ mon­sters and dal­liances. It is not at all obvi­ous to the mod­ern reader why Telemachus was seen by Voltaire and Thomas Jef­fer­son as a sym­bol of lib­erty and rea­son, enshrined in Fénelon’s Les aven­tures de Télé­maque (1699), which earned its author polit­i­cal exile. In the tumul­tuous 18th Cen­tury, there were operas about Telemachus by Scar­latti, Gluck, Destouche, Sor, Gaz­zaniga, Le Sueur and Mayr.. far more than there were about Odysseus. Gluck’s Telemaco is still widely per­formed. But the 19th Cen­tury saw lit­tle of inter­est in either Telemachus or Odysseus, and despite the pres­tige of Homer, an atti­tude set­tled in that the Odyssey was an embar­rass­ing vul­gar com­mer­cial work that Homer must have ground out for the plebs to pay the rent while per­fect­ing the higher-prestige Iliad ― or bet­ter yet that he didn’t write at all. So it was the Odyssey for the kid­dies and the Iliad for the adults. Only James Joyce, so it seems, thought oth­er­wise. This was quite log­i­cal in an age when “seri­ous” was equated with “real­ist” and pres­tige lit­er­a­ture was not sup­posed to have mon­sters in it. Half the best books of the 20th Cen­tury were ignored under the influ­ence of that premise. The 21st Cen­tury has seen a renewal of inter­est in the Odyssey, along with all forms of imag­i­na­tive, non-realist literature.

Kirk Douglas and Rossana Podestà in Ulysses (1954)

Kirk Dou­glas & Rossana Podestà in Ulysses (1954)

As well as reread­ing the great epic, I also indulged in view­ing some of its cin­e­matic inter­pre­ta­tions. First, I watched the Italian-made Ulysses [Ulisse (1954) d. Mario Camerini], with most of the minor roles dubbed, but the parts of Kirk Dou­glas and Anthony Quinn acted in Eng­lish. Sil­vana Man­gana appears as both Circe and Pene­lope. Telemachus is played by Franco Inter­lenghi, who is lit­tle known out­side of Italy, but began a pro­lific film career at age 15 in Vit­to­rio De Sica’s Scius­cià, and for years rivaled Mar­cello Mas­trioanni as a roman­tic lead. Rossana Podestà is a sexy Nau­si­caa. Dou­glas’ usu­ally annoy­ing smirk is well suited to a Wily Ulysses [Odysseus], and he does quite a good job. The script doesn’t stray far from the orig­i­nal, though it selects a few seg­ments to con­cen­trate on and omits some oth­ers. The Cyclops devour­ing Greeks scene is pretty graphic for the 1950s. Next, I saw the 1997 tele­vi­sion minis­eries The Odyssey star­ring Armand Assante, who por­trays Odysseus as not so much wily as grumpy. The series is lit­tered with celebrity walk-ons: Isabella Rossellini, Eric Roberts, Irene Papas, Geral­dine Chap­lin, Christo­pher Lee, some of which are rather strange cast­ing, e.g. Bernadette Peters as Circe, and Michael J. Pol­lard as Aeo­lus (!) As with the 1954 ver­sion, this minis­eries is rea­son­ably faith­ful to the orig­i­nal. The same can­not be said for Odysseus: Voy­age to the Under­world (2008, d. Terry Ingram), a Romania/Canada/UK co-production filmed in Canada. It bills itself as ” the tale Homer felt was too hor­rific to tell; the miss­ing book of The Odyssey”. Yup. There is also a long French minis­eries from 2013 that I haven’t been able to find.

First Meditation on Dictatorship [written Thursday, February 7, 2008] REPUBLISHED

https _s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com_736x_ee_59_33_ee593300e425c02784549e0228c025e1In the begin­ning years of this blog, I pub­lished a series of arti­cles called “Med­i­ta­tions on Democ­racy and Dic­ta­tor­ship” which are still reg­u­larly read today, and have had some influ­ence. They still elicit inquiries from remote cor­ners of the globe. They are now buried in the back pages of the blog, so I’m mov­ing them up the chrono­log­i­cal counter so they can have another round of vis­i­bil­ity, espe­cially (I hope) with younger read­ers. I am re-posting them in their orig­i­nal sequence over part of 2018. Some ref­er­ences in these “med­i­ta­tions” will date them to 2007–2008, when they were writ­ten. But I will leave them un-retouched, though I may occa­sion­ally append some ret­ro­spec­tive notes. Mostly, they deal with abstract issues that do not need updating.


14-03-18 - BLOG Memorial-at-Lidice-1st-Med-on-Dic

Mon­u­ment at Lidice.
The faces of the chil­dren are not gen­er­al­ized abstrac­tions. They are care­fully recon­structed from pho­tographs to rep­re­sent the indi­vid­ual chil­dren as they were in life.

We are so hamyd,
For-taxed and ramyd,
By these gentlery-men!

― The Wake­field Sec­ond Shep­herds’ Play, c.1425–1450 [1]

We are men the same as they are:
Our mem­bers are as straight as theirs are,
Our bod­ies stand as high from the ground,
The pain we suffer’s as pro­found.
Our only need is courage now,
To pledge our­selves by solemn vow,
Our goods and per­sons to defend,
And stay together to this end…

— Robert Wace, Le roman de la Rou et des ducs de Nor­mandie, 1160-70s [2]

On my return to Prague, last year, after tramp­ing in Hun­gary and Tran­syl­va­nia, my friend Filip Marek took a day off for some more explo­rations of the Bohemian coun­try­side. This turned out to be the most emo­tion­ally charged day in my trav­els, and I’ve delayed describ­ing it because of its per­sonal impor­tance to me.

The land­scape around Prague is not much dif­fer­ent, at first glance, from that of South­ern Ontario. It’s rich farm­land, gen­tly rolling hills, and patches of mixed for­est sim­i­lar to those around Toronto. Most of it was so pleas­ant that I couldn’t help replay­ing snatches of Dvořák, Smetana and Janáček in my head as the car rolled under the dap­pled sun­lit trees, past fields and vil­lages that seem to be both ancient and brand new at the same time. How­ever, our quest was to extract some­thing incon­gru­ously dis­turb­ing and tragic from Bohemia’s woods and streams.[3] We were going to see two places that do not loom large in the his­tory books, but loom large in the kind of his­tory that I am con­cerned with. The first was the Vojna Hard Labour Camp, in the for­est near the vil­lage of Příbram, and the sec­ond was the site of Lidice, a vil­lage that no longer exists. Read more »

Image of the month: Lilies of the Amazon

Victoria Regia Water Lily and Lily PadsNymphaea vic­to­ria ama­zon­ica, an extra­or­di­nary species of water lily found in shal­low bay­ous and side-channels of the Ama­zon River, most of all in its immense delta. The float­ing leaf-pads may exceed 3 meters in width.

FILMSAUGUST 2018

(Salkow 1940) The Lone Wolf Strikes
(Hellings 1985) Doc­tor Who: Ep.631 ― The Mark of Rani, Part 1
(Hellings 1985) Doc­tor Who: Ep.632 ― The Mark of Rani, Part 2
(Honda 1966) Franken­stein Con­quers the World [aka Franken­stein vs. Baragon]
(Tenold 2018) Brandon’s Cult Movie Reviews: Franken­stein Con­quers the World
(Bridge 2015) How the Uni­verse Works: Ep.28 ― Mon­ster Black Hole
(Mof­fatt 1985) Doc­tor Who: Ep.633 ― The Two Doc­tors, Part 1
(Mof­fatt 1985) Doc­tor Who: Ep.634 ― The Two Doc­tors, Part 2
(Mof­fatt 1985) Doc­tor Who: Ep.635 ― The Two Doc­tors, Part 3
(Gian­cola 1994) Time Chasers [Mys­tery Sci­ence The­atre Ver­sion]
Read more »

First-time listening for August 2018

29262. (Gio­vanni Bononcini) Astarto [com­plete opera; d. Biondi; Valen­tini, dalle Molle,
. . . . . Müller-Molinari]
29263. (Wale [Olubowale Vic­tor Akin­time­hin]) Ambi­tion
29264. (Brian Ferry) These Fool­ish Things
29265. (Johann Sebas­t­ian Bach) Can­tata #80a “Alles, was von Gott geboren” [vari­ant of #80]
29266. (Higher Intel­li­gence Agency) Colour­form
29267. (Pro­col Harum) Shine On Brightly
29268. (Johann Sebas­t­ian Bach) Can­tata #81 “Jesus schläft, was soll ich hof­fen?”, bwv.81
29269. (Johann Sebas­t­ian Bach) Can­tata #82 “Ich habe genug”, bwv.82
29670. (Charley Pride) The Pride of Coun­try Music
Read more »

READINGAUGUST 2018

27492. (Homer) The Odyssey [tr. Stephen Mitchell] [pre­vi­ously read at 4398 in Rieu trans.]
27493. (Mil­jana Radi­vo­je­vić, et al) The Prove­nance, Use, and Cir­cu­la­tion of Met­als in the
. . . . . Euro­pean Bronze Age: The State of the Debate [arti­cle]
27494. (James Blinkhorn & M. Grove) Struc­ture of the Mid­dle Stone Age in Easter Africa
. . . . . [arti­cle] [d]
27495. (Sheila McCul­lagh) Tom Cat and the Wideawake Mice
27496. (Siân Hal­crow) On Engage­ment with Anthro­pol­ogy: A Crit­i­cal Eval­u­a­tion of Skele­tal
. . . . . and Devel­op­men­tal Abnor­mal­i­ties in the Ata­cama Preterm Baby and Issues of
. . . . . Foren­sic and Bioar­chae­o­log­i­cal Research Ethics [arti­cle]
27497. (Ken­neth Robe­son) Doc Sav­age #68: Fortress of Soli­tude
Read more »

(Richardson 1962) The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

18-08-16 VIEW (Richardson 1962) The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner pic 1There is more to this bleak story of a young man in a juve­nile deten­tion facil­ity than just another bit of “social real­ism” or the usual for­mula of redemption-through-sport. There are lay­ers and lay­ers in Alan Sillitoe’s story, and Ralph Richardson’s film gets many of them across. It’s about being con­trolled, being used, being forced to play roles for oth­ers, and finally rebelling against it in a way that makes some sense. The actors clearly under­stood these sub­tleties, and avoided clichés in inter­pret­ing the roles. Tom Court­ney became a star on the strength of this per­for­mance. Michael Red­grave, by then a ven­er­a­ble icon, worked every scene with him in del­i­cate bal­ance. This film still has a high rep­u­ta­tion in the British cin­ema, and justly so.

18-08-16 VIEW(Richardson 1962) The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner pic 2

18-08-16 VIEW(Richardson 1962) The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner pic 3

18-08-16 VIEW(Richardson 1962) The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner pic 4

18-08-16 VIEW(Richardson 1962) The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner pic 5

Kurdish Folk Music

Kurdish band Nishtiman performed their second album "Kobane" Toronto, Canada, Sep. 29, 2017. The band unites musicians from the different Kurdish communities of Iraqi Kurdistan Iran, and Turkey.

Kur­dish band Nish­ti­man per­formed their sec­ond album “Kobane” Toronto, Canada, Sep. 29, 2017. The band unites musi­cians from the dif­fer­ent Kur­dish com­mu­ni­ties of Iraqi Kur­dis­tan Iran, and Turkey.

For a pedi­gree of musi­cal con­ti­nu­ity, you can’t beat Kur­dis­tan. The old­est known nota­tion of music dates from the ancient Hur­rian king­dom, in the sec­ond mil­le­nium BC. Two sacred hymns recov­ered by archae­ol­o­gists from that ancient civ­i­liza­tion, located in the heart of today’s Kur­dis­tan, are in the same mode and bear a vis­i­ble kin­ship to the Kur­dish folk music of today. The mod­ern Kur­dish folk move­ment is frag­mented: vari­ant scenes in Iraqi Kur­dis­tan, Iran, Syria, or Turkey, as well as a Kur­dish dias­pora in Europe and North Amer­ica. In Turkey, singing in the Kur­dish lan­guage was against the law, pun­ished by impris­on­ment and phys­i­cal abuse, until very recently. In Iran, how­ever, it thrived, and in newly self-governing Kur­dis­tan, I’m sure it must be under­go­ing quite a renais­sance. Other than a few stray pieces on gen­eral col­lec­tions of mid­dle east­ern music, the only record­ings I have are one by instru­men­tal­ists Tah­moures and Sohrab Pour­naz­eri, with accom­pa­ny­ing vocals by Rojan, enti­tled sim­ply Kur­dish Folk Music, and a cd called Kur­dish Dances fea­tur­ing Moham­mad Bhamani on dozak and sornâ, ‘Abdol­lâh Nabi­ol­lâhi on dobol, and vocals by ‘Abdol­lâh Qor­bâni. But I heard a mar­velous live con­cert last year, at the Agha Khan Museum in Toronto. The first thing that strikes the lis­tener is the music’s acces­si­bil­ity. The melodies are catchy and upbeat, and not buried in the micro­tonal intri­c­as­ies and melisma that makes it hard for out­siders to fol­low mid­dle east­ern music. You could eas­ily party to this music, in a mod­ern disco, though it is purely traditional.

Sixth Meditation on Democracy [written January 10, 2008] REPUBLISHED

https _s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com_736x_ee_59_33_ee593300e425c02784549e0228c025e1In the begin­ning years of this blog, I pub­lished a series of arti­cles called “Med­i­ta­tions on Democ­racy and Dic­ta­tor­ship” which are still reg­u­larly read today, and have had some influ­ence. They still elicit inquiries from remote cor­ners of the globe. They are now buried in the back pages of the blog, so I’m mov­ing them up the chrono­log­i­cal counter so they can have another round of vis­i­bil­ity, espe­cially (I hope) with younger read­ers. I am re-posting them in their orig­i­nal sequence over part of 2018. Some ref­er­ences in these “med­i­ta­tions” will date them to 2007–2008, when they were writ­ten. But I will leave them un-retouched, though I may occa­sion­ally append some ret­ro­spec­tive notes. Mostly, they deal with abstract issues that do not need updating.


14-03-18 BLOG SIXTH MEDITATION ON DEMOCRACYFor this Med­i­ta­tion on Democ­racy, the sixth in the series, I will under­take a cri­tique of some cur­rently dom­i­nant ideas about the role of democ­racy in human his­tory, and attempt to pro­vide a con­cep­tual frame­work for look­ing at democ­racy in a dif­fer­ent, more real­is­tic way. This will mean that some of the ground cov­ered in ear­lier med­i­ta­tions will be revis­ited. It will also draw on the col­lab­o­ra­tive work between myself and Prof. Steven Muhlberger, pub­lished in the Jour­nal of World His­tory, and on the World His­tory of Democ­racy Web­site. I am exclu­sively respon­si­ble, how­ever, for the views expressed in this series.

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Estêvão Lopes Morago

18-08-06 LISTN Estêvão Lopes Morago

Lis­bon at the time of Lopes Mor­ago: a global entrepôt.

Much of the artis­tic achieve­ment of the Por­tuguese Renais­sance was destroyed by the great Lis­bon Earth­quake of 1755, which killed 30,000 peo­ple. Among the losses where most of the works of the com­poser Estêvão Lopes Mor­ago (c.1575 — after 1630). But some of his work that sur­vives indi­cates that he was very good. I have only five short pieces, recorded by the Gul­benkian Foun­da­tion choir on their Por­tu­galiae Musica series. All are poly­phonic pieces, four of them for four voices, one for a dou­ble choir of 3 and 4 parts each. The most beau­ti­ful is the Jesu redemp­tor, which is a litany for the dead, pray­ing for Christ to accept the soul of the departed, and per­haps sung dur­ing the cortège, between the house of the deceased and the church. Mor­ago was actu­ally a Spaniard, but appar­ently spent most of his life in Por­tu­gal as choir-master of the Cathe­dral of Viseu.